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Serial killer films: they are interesting, action-packed, and leave you guessing (usually) until the very end. Some are intended to make you laugh, others to give you nightmares. In this article, however, I have chosen two of the most famous fictional serial killers to discuss: Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. Why? Because their Netflix series' Hannibal and Bates Motel are amazing precursors to the movies that were released so many years prior.
Warning: there will be spoilers mentioned if you have not seen the films or series.
This classic film is brought to life by horror and thriller legend Alfred Hitchcock. As most likely the original "slasher film," Psycho follows a very timid man, Norman Bates, as he runs his late mother's secluded hotel. When a beautiful and mysterious woman comes to stay, however, he can't fight his true nature any longer and decides to kill her. Or did he? This film's main twist is that Norman is not just Norman, but he is also the embodiment of his late mother, Norma. It is this persona that killed the young woman out of sheer jealousy.
This film was the introduction to an amazing genre, as well as the plot twist at the end that likely no first-time viewer would expect. However, the film does seem to begin at the end, so to speak, as the events leading to Norma's death and her son's imaginary creation of her is left mainly unexplained.
As a fan of the Psycho film, it was almost a reflex to start watching Bates Motel, and it was not a mistake. This series is the perfect build-up to the events that happen in Psycho, and help fill in the gaps in Norman's story that make the audience more connected to him as a character and person.
The series begins with a high school-aged Norman Bates and his mother moving to the motel, and follows their lives from that point on. The actor who plays Norman, Freddie Highmore, perfectly captured the childlike innocence as well as the contrasting rage of his character. Almost like a young version of Anthony Perkins (who originally played Norman), it is very obvious that Highmore took to studying the mannerisms and movements from the classic film.
With added characters and different plots, this series beautifully shows Norman Bates' development and how he mentally came to the point at which he decided to kill his mother, become her, and murder as her. The final season especially highlights this, as it lightly follows the sequence of the film.
If you are a fan of Hitchcock and Psycho, I would highly recommend this series. It explains what was needed to be explained, and does so perfectly while keeping in line with the facts of the original. Bates Motel creates an amazing prequel to a fan-favourite film, and is definitely worth watching.
'The Silence of the Lambs'
Another classic horror film is The Silence of the Lambs. The interesting part of this film is that the audience first sees the infamous killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter already locked up for his crimes of murder and cannibalism. The protagonist played by Jodie Foster is asked to speak to the good doctor regarding another serial killer.
The chilling and wonderful performance that was given by Anthony Hopkins leaves you wanting more out of the character. Since this film began with his incarceration, it makes the audience wonder what are the things that he has done that make him so dangerous, manipulative, and an insanely intelligent psychopath.
This film is a classic for a reason, it is the interesting aspect of seeking help from a killer to find a killer. The tables are definitely turned from typically wanting to isolate a psychopath to wanting to work with him to "catch the bad guy."
This brings us to the modern-day installment of the story of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. However, this time it is before he was caught for his crimes. Hannibal takes the audience back to a time where the esteemed serial killer was nothing more than an esteemed psychiatrist (as well as being a murder/cannibal on the side).
Hannibal is a sensational series that is not only about how and why Dr. Lecter kills, but is also about how those around him ceased to suspect him and thus took so long to apprehend him. Hannibal Lecter is given an introduction through this series, as we are fully able to understand the type of psychopath that he is, and just how intelligent he is by hiding in plain sight and even working with the people who could arrest him at the drop of a dime.
We are shown that Hannibal Lecter is a man who appreciates art. Despite not seeing his victims as nothing more than a dinner, he creates extravagant scenes for the police to find. Describing his acts as "theatrical" in the series, the design and thought that went into how carefully the scenes are arranged do not disappoint.
As well as loving art, he is also shown as an immensely manipulative individual, which is most likely why he was able to get away with his crimes for such a long time. He is able to manipulate FBI agents, as well as his own psychiatric patients, one being the antagonist of the series Will Graham, whom at one point is even thought to be guilty of the murders committed by Hannibal. This series clearly demonstrates that there is more to Hannibal Lecter than meets the eye.
In the End...
From the silver screen to television screens, the characters of Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates will never cease to amaze viewers with their stories. By having their own series, these characters were able to evolve in amazing ways from what was originally given from their films. One can only hope that these characters will live on and their legacies known, as they are mysterious, cunning, and thanks to the magic of television: immortal.